The Optoma UHD38 is a compact 4K projector designed for home entertainment and competitive gaming. According to the manufacturer, the UHD38’s unique combination of lightning-fast input, incredible color depth, and retina-searing brightness allows it to deliver an incredibly immersive experience, regardless of whether you’re enjoying the latest Hollywood blockbuster on Ultra HD Blu-ray or battling it out in Call of Duty. To verify those lofty claims, we spent a week putting the UHD38 through its paces. Here is our review.
Design and Setup
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Optoma UHD38 is that it is fairly compact. Its all-white chassis weighs a meager 8.6 lb, making it easy to move around or reposition, which is nice if you don’t plan on mounting it on a ceiling.
Like most Optoma projectors, the UHD38 includes button controls on the top of the unit and a manual focus ring around the standard-throw lens—with a 1.1x optical zoom lever behind it. On the back is a bevy of connectors, including two HDMI ports, VGA, 3.5mm in and out, and optical audio.
Regardless of your input source, setting up the UHD38 is relatively easy. It’s simply a matter of connecting the right cables. For us, those connections were HDMI to our PS5 and Nintendo Switch and DisplayPort to an ASUS ROG laptop.
One thing to keep in mind when setting up the UHD38 is that its 1.5 to 1.66:1 throw ratio means you’re going to need a distance of around 10' to fill a 100" screen. That much unobstructed space isn’t always easy to come by, especially in places like New York. If you can only manage, say, 7' of unobstructed space, you’re looking at a 60" screen—which isn’t small by any means, but it’s also not what most people have in mind when they think “big-screen” projector.
It's also worth mentioning that the UHD38 does come with a built-in 10W speaker. Users will likely look elsewhere for their audio needs, but in the absence of a suitable home theater solution, the integrated speaker is a solid fallback, performing admirably considering its inherent limitations.
Optoma bills the UHD38 as one of its premiere DLP projectors. Looking at the spec sheet, it’s easy to understand why. Boasting 4K graphics, HDR and HLG compatibility, 4000 lumens of brightness, and support for up to 240 Hz of high-definition gaming, the UHD38 sounds a little too good to be true.
However, after a week of testing, we found that while the UHD38 wasn’t perfect, it was much closer than we would have imagined, given its price. For starters, the UHD38’s brightness performance really wowed us. In general, projectors deliver better pictures at night, when there is less ambient light, but thanks to the UHD38’s 4000 lumens and million-to-one contrast ratio, we were able to get a shockingly clear picture during the day
Speaking of picture performance: the UHD38 delivers good-to-great all-around image quality, depending on the content. Sharpness of details and color vibrancy are its major strengths. Out of the box, the UHD38’s black levels seemed fairly average and at times looked a bit muted—especially when viewing HDR content. You can tweak the settings to get a better result, but users should be aware that dark scenes are never going to be this projector’s strength. Conversely, the UHD38 absolutely stuns during brighter scenes, exhibiting colors that are as rich and vibrant as any projector you’ll see at this price. We watched the remastered edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on 4K Blu-ray and the color depth and detail were nothing short of breathtaking.
Good for Movies, Better for Gaming
While the UHD38 is credited as being a home theater and gaming projector, the latter is where it really shines. Anyone who has ever tried gaming on a projector knows that latency issues and input lag are legitimate concerns—especially in live-action games like Fortnite or even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where even a couple of extra milliseconds of input delay can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The UHD38 combats latency issues with its Enhanced Gaming mode, which dramatically reduces input lag. Optoma claims you can hit input response times of 4.2 ms at 1080p/240 Hz. That time goes up to 16.7 ms if you play at 4K/60 Hz―even that is incredibly impressive for a projector and faster than what you get from most TVs. We tested those claims and although we never hit the 4.2 ms mark, we got close, hovering between 5 and 7 ms throughout our gameplay. It was easily the most responsive gaming experience we’ve had using a projector.
While we were very pleased with the UHD38’s overall performance, it did have some issues. Earlier, we mentioned that the UHD38 doesn’t excel at black levels, which means you’re never going to get those super-dark, inky blacks; additionally, shadow details are never going to be more than just OK. The other notable issue is the lack of image-shift adjustment. You do get access to some basic keystone adjustments, but those are hardly a suitable replacement for a lens shift, which would allow you to adjust the position of the image and correct for distortion.
Because it’s billed as a home entertainment and gaming projector, it’s hard to not give the UHD38 a ringing endorsement. As a cinema projector, it delivers solid all-around image quality and truly excellent color performance. It performs even better as a gaming monitor, offering the same good-to-great image quality and a lightning-fast response time that is unprecedented among projectors. If you are a looking for a 4K projector that can deliver on both fronts—i.e., cinema and gaming—you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a more suitable option than the Optoma UHD38.
If you have any questions or comments about the Optoma UHD38 projector, or projectors in general, please drop us a line in the Comments section, below.